By all accounts, Chicago Bulls point guard and former MVP Derrick Rose is back. The 25-year-old has only played in 10 NBA games the last two seasons due to a torn ACL in his right knee and a torn meniscus in his left, so some rust was expected before Rose entered the upcoming 2014-15 season. Instead, Rose stormed into USA Basketball’s tryouts for the FIBA World Cup team, and has drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates.
"It takes an exceptional person, which is why we're talking about Derrick," Team USA and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said last week. "I think he's exceptional in every way. He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball handler, moving his feet, attacking him. There was a buzz right away because it was basically his saying, 'Look, I'm not just back. I'm back at a level that's elite.’”
But Rose actually began the summer by saying he was unsure he would compete for Team USA, which alarmed the Bulls brass.
"I still don't know yet," Rose said to Yahoo! Sports. "If I'm feeling right and the time is [right], for sure I will go out there. My body is responding good, but you never know.
"Right now, I haven't really thought about that. I am just worrying about just trying to get back every day and I'm really taking rehab one day at a time instead of trying to think about competing."
Chicago knew that Rose came back a much stronger, more elite, player after his first stint with Team USA back in 2010 when he helped capture the gold medal at the FIBA games. The next season Rose captured the MVP award. Now the Bulls have every reason to believe they can rise to the top of the Eastern Conference again, with Rose beating out fellow guards John Wall and Bradley Beal for one of the 12 spots on Team USA. Earlier this week the present roster was trimmed down to 16 finalists, and with Paul George obviously ruled out following his gruesome leg injury and Kevin Durant pulling himself out for rest, Krzyzewski will need Rose to play a critical role on both sides of the floor.
It’s a major test for Rose, but the true one will come in Chicago. The Bulls were 30th in the NBA in points per game, and 28th in offensive efficiency last season, but still managed to maintain the No. 4 seed in the East with the league’s best defense. But once the playoffs started Chicago’s lack of offensive firepower was exposed by Washington, who bounced the Bulls out of the postseason in five games. In the series-deciding fifth game, Chicago scored 69 points and shot 33.3 percent from the field.
The Bulls were afforded a career year from veteran D.J. Augustin, who totaled a career-best 14.9 points per game and dished out five assists, and still had veteran Kirk Hinrich and his experience in the backcourt. But even they couldn’t keep up with Washington’s Wall and Beal.
Luckily for Chicago, they’ll have Rose helping out this go round. Many have questioned whether he can comeback and be the same guard who racked up 25 points 7.7 assists and a steal per game during his MVP campaign. It’s a fair question, and the Washington Post pointed out that Rose could serve to extend his career by attacking the basket less and avoid barreling into defenses as much. Comparing him to the likes of Miami’s Dwyane Wade and his twisty, acrobatic attempts at the basket, the Post recommended Rose mirror the style of San Antonio’s Tony Parker, who “probes” defenses rather than running them over.
For now we know Rose is a healthy and can lead the Bulls back into the playoffs next season, but time will tell if he can alter his game to continue a career that was on a Hall of Fame path.